Emily Mortimer, Woody Harrelson, Ben Kingsley, Eduardo Noriega, Kate Mara
Roy: Hold on there, Ilya, don’t tell me you miss the U.S.S.R.? The U.S.S.R. was a dark, evil empire.
Ilya: Maybe so, but then we were people living in the darkness. Now we are people dying in the light. Which is better?
Jessie (Mortimer) and Roy (Harrelson) are an American couple traveling from China to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian railroad, which is where they meet and befriend Carlos (Noriega) and Abby (Mara). Carlos and Jessie seem to have an attraction to each other, and Carlos starts to bring out a bit of Jessie’s wild side that the straight-laced Roy had helped her contain. This leads to Jessie getting caught up in a very bad situation.
Despite its slow start, I was enjoying the Hitchcock-like feel of this movie for a good 3/4 of it. Unfortunately they felt the need to go for violence and a chase at the end instead of continuing the more interesting intellectual cat and mouse game. It’s a shame because I was enjoying watching Jessie and the detective, Ilya (Kingsley), go toe to toe.
I was not, however, enjoying Woody Harrelson. For some reason he bugs me in just about everything (except for Kingpin), and his aw-shucks, stereotypical American act got on my nerves from frame one. Fortunately the movie focuses more on Jessie. Her struggle to avoid falling back on old tendencies and temptations is played well by Mortimer.
I thought maybe the confined space of the train could have been used better at times to create tension, but I suppose the director, Brad Anderson, was going more for isolation through the use of the Siberian landscape. When Jessie’s with her husband, it’s usually on the train, going in a straight line. But when they get separated for a while, of the train, is when Jessie ends up wandering off into vast, isolated places with Carlos.
Speaking of which, if you like snowy landscapes, then you’ll enjoy the scenery in this movie. It would also help if you like looking at trains.
Even if the story derails (pun totally intended) a bit near the end, it still resolves itself well. Overall, it’s a good looking, interesting suspense movie driven by a strong central performance from Emily Mortimer. If only they’d left Woody back at the station…
The age old lesson of “Don’t talk to strangers” proves itself wise once again.
10 – 1.8 because the last act is a bit too typical – 1.3 because Woody really did bug me + .2 for Emily Mortimer = 7.1